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Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.

Jimmy Butler posts Instagram trolling Andrew Wiggins after Sixers beat Wolves by 42

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Jimmy Butler is nothing if not petty. The Philadelphia 76ers guard scored a whopping 19 points As they took on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. The Sixers beat Minnesota, 149-107, in a historic beatdown.

Of course, Butler left the Timberwovles under inauspicious circumstances in late 2018, and the narrative has long been that the 29-year-old star has thought Minnesota’s young stars were soft. That included Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, who appear to be doing a sight better now that both Butler and Tom Thibodeau is out of Minneapolis.

Still, the big win over his former team was something Butler couldn’t shy away from relishing on social media immediately after the game. In a post to his Instagram, Butler captioned a photo of him looking through a blurry Wiggins with the caption, “Looking right through the past.. to the future!”

Via Instagram:

Oof.

Things aren’t much clearer for Butler in Philadelphia given some rumored conflict between him, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid, but his entertainment value remains through the roof.

Report: Add Kings to the list of teams interested in trading for Jeremy Lin

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The Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, and New Orleans Pelicans have all expressed interest in trading for Atlanta Hawks veteran point guard Jeremy Lin.

Now, we can add the Sacramento Kings to the list of teams exploring a trade for the 30-year-old.

After starting the season with an unexpected record, the Kings are suddenly in the chase for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Sacramento beat Portland, 115-107, on Monday, and now it appears they’re sniffing around Lin.

Via Twitter:

The Kings have the expiring contracts of Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos to help offer in return for Lin’s services. The Hawks point guard could fit in perfectly with Sacramento’s fastbreak attack, especially considering how much Lin has thrived in transition in seasons past.

Hawks are reportedly asking for a hefty sum in exchange for Lin’s services. A first-round draft pick is what Atlanta is currently looking for, which is a little much for a player who is an expiring deal himself.

The NBA trade market is heating up, and Lin could be a solid get for a team looking to bolster their guard rotation. The real question is whether anyone can get the Hawks to back down on their demands.

Kevin Durant says Luka Doncic ‘didn’t have to go to class, study hall’

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Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic Has been a professional basketballer since he was 16 years old, first appearing with the top-tier Real Madrid squad in the ACB in 2015. Doncic has been a resident of Spain since he was 13, and as such he has needed to complete specific schooling as required by Spanish law.

Nobody told Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant that.

In a recent comment about Doncic to media, Durant said that he felt as though part of the reason the Mavericks rookie has a leg up is because he has been able to focus on basketball for much longer than some of his American compatriots.

Via ESPN:

“He played in Europe last season. The rest of the rookie class played in college. So he’s in the second best league in the world learning how to play the game. He didn’t have to go to class, study hall, none of that extra stuff the rest of the guys had to go through, he was just focusing on his game probably since he was 14 years old. So that’s an advantage for him and you could tell that he’s not shy, he’s not afraid of the moment. And he’s going to be a force.”

Durant’s information about Doncic doesn’t appear to be based in fact. Doncic completed his Spanish schooling according to Eurohoops.net, which would mean he’s had to participate in academics up until last year. While Doncic has been a professional — and has been getting paid above board longer than other rookies — it’s not as though he hasn’t had to complete schooling.

This also raises some comparative questions about what Durant thinks goes on for kids in high-level AAU programs, top high school academies in the U.S., or even for players like Durant himself, who played just one year in college. That’s before we even get into semantics about the rigor of academics for sports phenomenons, home and abroad.

The mystery of European prospects has started to fade, but international players still have some kind of shroud hanging around them for people in the U.S., and that includes NBA players. It’s best to get out of this type of thing early and dispel it with the facts we know and have available to us. Durant was being complimentary, of course, but the Warriors forward saying Doncic has been focusing on nothing but basketball since he left middle school is a bridge too far.

In any case, there’s no doubt Doncic is going to be a force. We all picked him for Rookie of the Year, and unless someone stops him that’s exactly what he’s going to be.

Report: Lakers to change up lineups in lieu of LeBron, wins

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The Los Angeles Lakers are not a good basketball team without LeBron James. This is fairly obvious, and we knew the ultimate test heading into this season would be if James suffered an injury that kept him out for a significant period of time.

Of course we have been able to test this theory firsthand this season as LeBron has not played since a 127-101 win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. The Lakers have lost seven of their last 10 games, and so head coach Luke Walton has decided to switch up his starting lineup.

Both Josh Hart and JaVale McGee will find themselves in the reserve rotation moving forward for Los Angeles.

Via Twitter:

McGee started the season strong but has seen a downward trend in subsequent months. McGee’s rebounding numbers and have been disappointing as of late, but most shocking has been his field goal percentage. He’s been hovering in the low-60s all season long but in the month of January McGee has dipped to just 47.4 percent.

Hart has been relatively steady, although January has been hard on him from beyond the 3-point line. Typically a reliable outside shooter, Hart has shot just 17.5 percent from downtown since the start of the new year.

No doubt Walton is hoping that a change in the lineup will help alter some of the scouting opponents have against the Lakers, as well as revitalize both McGee and Hart individually.